Florida defensive lineman Conliffe is into ‘Avenger’ role

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Florida defensive lineman Elijah Conliffe. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

One of the responsibilities that comes with being the head football coach at a Power Five program is having the ability to relate with your student-athletes. It’s a dilemma Dan Mullen faced this offseason when describing the separate demeanors he asked of the Gators.

“We’ve got to get a little, a Jekyll and Hyde mentality, or they understood the Incredible Hulk a little bit more. Around campus, we should be like Dr. Banner, you know what I mean?,” Mullen said. “They know that one. They’ve remade the movies. I’m not talking about Lou Ferrigno now.

“He’s in all the Avenger movies now. But, then when we go out to the practice field, we cross that line. We need to flip a little switch and kind of become the Incredible Hulk where I kind of, I can’t control that violence and getting out there and going and hitting somebody and getting after people and how hard we go.”

Mullen’s updated metaphor wasn’t lost on sophomore defensive lineman Elijah Conliffe, who notably wore a Marvel T-shirt during his UF commitment ceremony. After appearing in eight games last year and recording two tackles, Conliffe earned the start at nose tackle in Florida’s season opener against Charleston Southern, where he assisted on a tackle. Although he didn’t start Florida’s first defensive series against Colorado State, Conliffe is slated for a critical role in Florida’s defense this season, and it’s his embrace of a violent mindset on the field that has accelerated his development.

“I just like the way (The Incredible Hulk) goes about things. He is just a destructive animal, so he flips on a cause, and he isn’t really scared of anyone — except for that last Avengers movie where they kind of played him with Thanos, but I’m going to let it slide,” Conliffe said, adding he can relate with the mindset behind the character. “When I get angry I get out of control, that’s why I try to control myself, because I know I need to get the reads, tell my teammates what they are supposed to be doing, so I kind of have to keep a cool head.”

Conliffe struggled to maintain his Banner-esque composure after a momentous play Saturday. The Gators, holding a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter, looked to stop the Rams’ potent offense from driving. Colorado State quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels looked set to throw, but a bad snap led to a fumble, on which Conliffe swiftly dove. Perhaps it was the joy of recording his first collegiate turnover, but Conliffe opted to remain on the ground seemingly hugging the football rather than celebrating with his teammates. It turned out to be more than just his first turnover in college.

“At first I was trying just to get up, and then I was like, this was my first fumble recovery ever since I’ve been playing football,” Conliffe said. “I couldn’t hold up.”

Now, Conliffe will focus on continuing to improve, as Florida hits the road to face Tennessee. Regardless if he’s starting, Conliffe is looking to capitalize on his snaps to maintain his development, and it seems maintaining the Hulk-like mentality will only benefit him and the Gators — as long as he remembers to channel his inner Dr. Bruce Banner when the situation calls for pleasantries.

“I think I can get better,” Conliffe said. “I have to get better on my double teams. I’ve been sort of stable, but I have to get even stabler. I have to be able to hold that middle down for my teammates so they can come through and make the plays they’re supposed to make. There’s still improvement, but we’re going to get there through work.”

29 COMMENTS

    • You sound like a dude who has never played an organized football game in your life, turnovers are about being in the right place at the right time and they have absolutely nothing to do with ones ability to play DLine in the SEC.
      Some of you are so quick to make an arrogant or cute comment on the internet you don’t even realize how dumb you make yourself look when you do so.

      • Right place and right time agreed, but also an awareness of where the ball is Tiny Tom. Also, they do have to do with ability. Are you not aware that there is something called stripping. First job is to make the tackle, but if your teammate has the man held up, you can rip it from the ball carrier’s arm. Down talk down to me and my football knowledge when obviously you don’t even know the basics.

        • You’re an idiot, he was a very highly recruited 4-star coming out of high school and a very good, class-act kid at that. He was also offered by bama, Georgia, penn state, and Michigan State, so before YOU start indirectly talking down on a kid who plays for a team that you’re supposedly a fan of, how about you do some research. Oh and also you talk about forcing fumbles… he said it was his first fumble recovery ever, didn’t say he never forced a fumble before.

          • Also, for you to reply so quickly about where all of his offers were from, either you have no life and have the entire roster’s bio memorized, or you quickly looked at rivals, 247, or espn to get the information and try and look like some kind of self proclaimed expert. So don’t call me an idiot again you tool.

          • As much as I hate getting involved, what I hate more is calling a fellow Gator an idiot, or accusing him of being dumb when all he has done is express an opinion. How about cease fire?

    • oldmansuwannee. If a nose guard is doing his job well by holding up double teams in the middle, then you will not hear that nose guards name mentioned that much, except by the coaching staff during film sessions the following week (praise being given to the nose guard). And Conliffe is a nose guard, and his name is not being mentioned much. Not a bad thing. A good read on a good nose guard is if the defensive ends, the other defensive tackle, and the linebackers are making a lot of play near and behind the line of scrimmage. And their is little doubt they did in the CSU game. Not as much in the Kentucky game. Conliffe needs to do his job well next Saturday so the other defensive players around him get their names called a lot for making big plays around and behind the line. Watch for that and, if it happens, thank the nose guard in Grantham’s 3-2-1-4 defense.

  1. Joe may. Defensive linemen usually cause fumbles and those fumbles are often recovered by a linebacker or defensive end coming in after them, if they are doing their jobs well. And Conliffe was a highly rated and coveted, four-star DL recruit coming out of high school; and why Florida recruited and signed him.

    • Tampa, how on God’s green earth do you have the time to make all these comments? Both the volume and depth you get into for almost every article is astounding. I told 6 and stand by my theory that you’re a robot. Can you confirm or deny my accusation? But seriously, I’m neither applauding nor poking fun, just impressed with your one man (or robot) mission to educate the Florida fan base.

      • Dalllas. I am retired and I spend a lot of time on the computer during the heat of the day researching a wide range of topics and subjects for various personal and financial purposes. And I have no desire to educate anyone. But I do enjoy sharing my thoughts and opinions about UF football as a UF grad, which anyone can choose to read or ignore. Some people drink (I do at times). Some people smoke. Some people are into religion. Others into politics. Some people just sit around and watch cable news TV. Some people fish. Some people run 10 miles each day. Some people do whatever. I mostly read and research during the day after or before playing 9 to 18 holes. I also spend a lot of time on the computer researching a wide range of topics, including college football to vary the activities of my day (probably do that too much leading up to and during the season). It keeps me busy, me out of my wife’s business and activities, and me from being a mindless robot.

  2. Wouldnt it be something if we actually had the Hulk to play on the defense! I can just see him now throwing offensive linemen out of the way as he charged into the backfield, then slapping a pass attempt down or seizing the tailback as he tried to run away tossing him down the field into the field goal net! and heaven help the QB that didnt get rid of the ball. I think the team would need about 6 QB’s to make it through the game or alot of intentional grounding!!